By: Lauren Genthner
If only I had known what was going to happen. If only a certain man didn’t forget his coat. If only a certain lady got decaf instead of waiting for some regular to brew. Or maybe if the wind hadn’t stolen a child’s balloon as he was walking across the street. If only a wife hadn’t checked a text she got from her husband in Iraq while driving. If only I didn’t walk out the door to see what happened. Or, maybe if I didn’t wake up at all this morning. I could’ve known. If I had known that at the same moment all those people would come together. If I had known that the man who forgot his coat was an ambulance driver, and the woman who decided to wait for her coffee was a nurse, and the boy was about to get hit by the woman who decided to check the text he got from her husband in Iraq, and if I didn’t see that that boy was going to get hit by a car, this wouldn’t have happened.
“How are you doing today, Evalyn?” the nurse inquired, flipping through a butt load of papers clipped to a clipboard.
How could you seriously ask that sort of a question in a place like this, in a time like this, in a situation like this? What do they teach nurses nowadays? That really sounded like something my mom would say. “Fine,” I said. That was a lie. Every inch of my body was in pain. I couldn’t tell for sure what was wrong with me, but I knew I was in great pain and covered head to toe in bandages.
“So, Evalyn…” the nurse stumbled over my name still looking through her papers. Just because it’s different doesn’t mean you have to treat it like some strange invading alien, I was tempted to yell at her. She read my personal information, “It says here that you are 18, turning 19 in May, a month. Your father died when you were 7 and your mother went to Africa on a mission trip and never came back when you were…oh, last year. Do you remember any of this?”
“Yeah, yes, I do.” It was a bit fuzzy but I remember.
“Okay, just making sure. Evalyn, you suffered severe trauma to the head in a car crash, do you remember that? You stepped right in front of an SUV.”
“No, I didn’t! There was a boy, he had a balloon but it blew away, then I saw a car coming and I pushed him out of the way but got in the way of the car.”
“Oh, well, I haven’t heard that story but it sounds like you really saved the day…” I hate it when people act like they believe you just to make you feel good. It’s just another way of saying I don’t care what you’re saying, I don’t believe you, shut up, kid! … This paper says…” her voice droned on, I zoned out for a bit. I heard the words severe and head damage and I think I heard the word chocolate somewhere in there. It was all just a mass of fuzz. Then I fell asleep.
I woke up the next morning to the not quite so melodious voice of the nurse singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen . I think I might’ve startled her because when she saw that I was awake, she ducked her head and scurried out of the room. I looked around the room. I looked at the ugly curtains covering the dirty window. I looked at the drab sheets I was lying on and bed covers twisted around my legs, I untwisted them. A boring tray of boring breakfast sat atop a boring metal table along with my phone and a suspicious looking note. Curious, I reached for the note and opened it quietly. It said my name on it. It was the bucket list I had written before my father died. I played back my writing it in my head seven years ago:
1. See Mona Lisa… check, I thought.
2. Ride an elephant… check
3. Go scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef… check
4. Dance the tango in Argentina… not yet
5. Bathe in the Ganges… check
6. Spend the day in the jungle… check
7. Kiss under the Eiffel Tower… not unless you count your mom
8. Get married in Japan with cherry blossoms floating in the breeze… if only… if only
9. Shake five famous people’s hands… check
10. Live with a native African… check
11. Get my portrait painted…check
12. Be an extra in a film… check
13. Cross the country on a bike… check
14. Perform a great song in front of an audience… check
15. Ride the world’s tallest rollercoaster… check
That had been so long ago. I had always hoped to finish every single one. That was my lifelong dream. I had never realized how lonely I was 'til I got to the hospital. Even after mother left, Jane was there. Jane had been my friend since we were five years old. Then the silent thought of reliving my childhood dream was broken by my nurse's voice saying, "Good news, Evalyn! I just had a talk with the doctor and he said everything's looking okay, so unless anything bad happens, like you start seeing things or you get dizzy, you're free to go tomorrow." I hate it when people talk to me like I'm a kid.
I reached for my phone. I had fifteen voicemail messages and twenty-seven missed calls, all from Jane. It crossed my mind once or twice that I should've called her earlier, but I just sat there and listened to my frantic friend's voice,
"Evalyn! What happened? Are you all right? I tried to come see you but the doctor stopped me! Ivan has been so scared for you. Call me when you can." Ivan was her pesky Persian cat. There were fourteen other messages, all similar.
After about two minutes of contemplation I decided to call her back. The dial tone was loud and obnoxious making my head ache; she finally picked up.
"Hey Janey, it's me..."
"Evalyn? Oh my gosh! I can't believe it's you! It's so good to finally hear your voice! How are you? What happened? Did you sue that driver? I swear, if I ever see anyone texting while they're driving or doing anything on their phone, I'll..."
"Jane, I'm okay! I just got a little bonk on the head and a few little scrapes."
"Well, are you sure 'cause I swear if I-"
"Really, I'm fine. I just was told that I could leave tomorrow so, could you come pick me up?"
"Oh, sure! Of course I can, sweetie! I'll come and get you after breakfast. You hang in there, okay."
"I'll try; the nurse is getting on my nerves."
"Well, you tell me if that nurse gets on your nerves anymore, 'cause if she does-"
"All right, I'll see you in the mornin’! Bye!"
When Jane finally got there it was around ten-thirty, an hour late. Do you know how long an hour is when you’ve been in a hospital bed for two nights? She claimed she had tried to bring Ivan, but the nurses said it’d be a health issue to most patients to have an allergen and pet dander infested animal in a hospital. So, she had to take Ivan all the way back home then come all the way back here. It was a very time consuming thing.
On the way home Jane suggested that I live at her house for a while, at least a month until my head healed. I had to agree that it was probably a health hazard to live in my tiny, cramped excuse for a home, so I quickly packed the essentials: clothes, toothbrush, piano music, etc..
“Where do you want to go for dinner?” Jane said, helping me put the last of my clothes into a dresser in her spare room.
“I don’t know, you choose.” I didn’t care as long as it wasn’t hospital food.
Jane spotted my bucket list and, I’m guessing, the first thing she saw was ‘tango in Argentina’. “How about Argentinean?”
The food was good; it was l lot like Mexican food. It was a pretty fun dinner, until Jane asked a random guy (not only random but so freakin’ adorable, no, that sounds like a teddy bear, sexy is too promiscuous high schooler… cute, I think would be the appropriate word here) if he wanted to dance with me. She said it’d be good for me. I never forgot how we spun around the dance floor, passion exploding underneath each step, each move, a flurry of emotion especially one particular emotion. His dark wavy hair caught the light and his deep blue eyes turned into flames.
When it came time to leave, I didn’t want to go. My dance partner didn’t want me to leave either.
“Wait, when can I see you again? My name is Bryce.” He sounded so shy.
“Evalyn…” he seemed to taste my name. “How about tomorrow at two. I’ll meet you on the bridge.”
“Okay.” I was so excited, I knew that the moment I got to my room, the first thing I would do is pick out an outfit to wear. Try on everything. And that’s what I did.
I expected my first date to be nerve wracking and scary, but it all seemed calm as the stream flowing underneath our feet as we stood on the bridge. It felt like the way it should be.
“So…” Bryce started. “What do you like?”
“Well, there are a lot of things I like. I like to play the piano. My favorite colors are green, blue and pink. I like Shakespeare, dramatic and sappy love stories, popcorn, Paris, movies, and you.”
“Well, maybe a bit more.” We both laughed. The sound of his laugh made me smile. I was unimaginably happy around him, and I had only known him one day. It seemed as if Time had been waiting for us to meet. When I got back to Janey’s house that night I was glad to get rid of one more thing on my list. Two more things left, I thought.
After that we went on two more dates, both at his apartment. We had to tell Jane we were going to some place really safe so she didn’t freak out. I told him about my recent accident and how I never noticed how lonely I was until I found him. We had kissed many times on our dates but this kiss defeated them all. It started like this: Janey went to another friend’s house leaving me with a mountain-like pile of emergency numbers. I got a call around ten ‘o clock from Bryce. He asked to come over. I said it was okay, my curiosity growing like a weed. It was perfect that tonight Jane’s friend asked her to come over.
He got to Jane’s house about ten minutes later with a handful of daisies (my favorite flower) and a present wrapped in pink, green, and blue in the crook of his arm. He handed me the package, I opened it and it was a metal wire sculpture of the Eiffel Tower that he made himself for me. I loved it so much I started crying. I went to get a vase of water for the daisies while Bryce hung the Eiffel Tower on the wall. Then we looked at each other we knew what was going to happen. Then it happened. Emotions erupted like fireworks. It felt almost like a dream. The best dream I had ever had; swallowed up in passion and love, the best sort of obsession, a great power amidst an ocean of peace. Then I felt dizzy, a nauseous sort of dizzy. I cried at the thought of ending such a perfect moment. Perfect doesn’t exist, not in this world. I sat down slowly and tried just breathing heavily, I couldn’t even concentrate on that. Any little light at all just sent a raging pain to my head, like a bullet. I couldn’t find the strength to even sit up; it was like my body forgot how to run itself. I heard the saddest sound you could ever hear, the sound of someone you love so, so much in tears. I managed to slip the words, “it’s okay,” from my lips. Then darkness overcame me.
I woke up early in the morning in the hospital again to the feeling of Bryce softly caressing my hand in his. I rolled onto my side to see him better. For a moment I forgot what he looked like it was so relieving to see his face again but not like this. His eyes were red and puffy and his cheeks were damp from tears. I had seen a lot of sad things in my life but this outweighed them all. A heavy, thick tear rolled slowly down my cheek and onto his face. “It’s okay,” I said stroking his hair like I always imagined doing to my children after being stung by a bee or falling off their bike. “It’s okay.”
When Bryce woke up I couldn’t describe all the things I saw in his eyes. I saw love, I saw sadness, but I saw hope. Then the doctor came in. His eyes weren’t as reassuring. He looked like he had just been woken up from a really good dream, and it must’ve been some amazing dream.
“I have news,” he said, “would you like it the nice way or the plain way?”
We both just stared at him with sore eyes.
“You have little more than a day to live. You are free to leave the hospital but, there’s nothing more we can do. I’m sorry…”
The rest of his words were lost to me. There was nothing else I could think about. What will happen to Bryce when I go? He didn’t move at all, in shock in pensive distress as I clung to his arm, weeping.
A few hours later after we had gotten over the worst of our tears we were still at the hospital and Bryce turned to me grasping my shoulders he kneeled and said,
“Evalyn, I wanted to ask you this ever since we danced for the first time, Evalyn, will you marry me? I… I don’t have a ring or anything but just, Evalyn, marry me! I… I’m sorry I…”
He couldn’t say anything more because right then I started kissing him. I held his face in my hands and said,
“Yes. Yes Bryce, I will! I love you so much!”
The wedding was always as I pictured it. Not too fancy. I carried a bouquet of daises as I walked up the aisle. The main color was yellow. It was not in Japan but that’s how I saw it; bright green dewy grass sparkling in the sun, cherry tree blossoms blowing in the wind. Everyone was there Jane, Bryce, of course, mom, dad, Ivan, and anyone I ever knew all came. It was the middle of May.
I closed my eyes and instead of black, I saw the brightest white. Like the color white Jesus wore when he ascended into heaven. I said, “It’s okay,” softly back to Earth. Then I let go.
If only I had known what was going to happen. If only a certain man didn’t forget his coat. If only a certain lady got decaf instead of waiting for some regular to brew. Or maybe if the wind hadn’t blown a child’s balloon so it didn’t fly away in his process of walking across the street. If only a wife hadn’t checked a text she got from her husband in Iraq while driving. If only I didn’t walk out the door to see what happened. Or, maybe if I didn’t wake up at all that morning. I could’ve known. If I had known that at the same moment all those people would come together. If I had known that the man who forgot his coat was an ambulance driver, and the woman who decided to wait for her coffee was a nurse, and the boy was about to get hit by the wife who decided to check the text he got from her husband in Iraq, and if I didn’t see that that boy was going to get hit by a car this wouldn’t have happened. But then, if it didn’t happen even though I died, I wouldn’t have lived.